Alcohol abuse victim speaks

By Catharine Hernson
February 28, 2002

An alcohol awareness program was made mandatory for all student athletes. Mary Beth Horvath invited Steve Hatzai, a victim of alcohol abuse to speak in the Widener Lecture Hall.

Hatzai was a senior at Syracuse University in 1992. He was celebrating his preeminent graduation by going to multiple parties. After drinking all day long Hatzai felt it was a good idea to climb onto the roof of the house he where he was drinking. He tried three times to swing from the roof onto the third floor balcony. The first two times his friends were able to catch him, not the last. Hatzai fell 45 feet onto the pavement below. He landed on his jaw forcing his brain to slam into the back of his skull. He was in a coma for two weeks and woke up on graduation day.

“First impressions are very important, don’t you think? If you saw me on the street, what would you think of me?” Hatzai asked the students in attendance. One man shouted out, “That there was something wrong with you.” Another response was, “I would wonder what happened to you.” Hatzai thanked the audience for their honesty and responded that a few years ago he would have said the same thing.

Hatzai stressed the fact that he hated lecturing, that he didn’t want to force a life of non-drinking on any one, but also that everyone should know what can happen after binge drinking. “I was a heavy drinker, I could handle my liquor. I wasn’t a crazy drunk. I wasn’t a stupid drunk.” He said of himself before the accident. He also described himself as the kind of person who, “Never thought this could happen to me.”

Hatzai showed a video of his long recovery process. It took him months just to be able to put on his own socks. “I think about my father every time a watch this,” he said after the screen went blank. The camera was shut off after two minutes of taping Hatzai try and put on one sock.

The audience was in awe by the video and only more so after Hatzai pulled people from their seats and used them as examples of people who had died due to alcohol related causes. Hatzai said, “Once you start drinking the common sense is gone. Just think before you drink.” He then apologized for preaching and thanked the audience for the listening.

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Catharine Hernson

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